Monday night’s fixture will not go down as a classic game, it was a cagey and tense encounter without the attacking verve we are used to from both sides, but it did not completely disappoint as a spectacle.
One man stood head and shoulders above the rest – not just physically – and that was Vincent Kompany.
The Citizens skipper kept Wayne Rooney quiet and the Belgian defender powered the winning header home on the stroke of half-time.
How he was not included on the PFA Player of the Year shortlist is a mystery.
Kompany is an imposing centre-half, but also an intelligent and calm presence in City’s back-line.
It was fitting that during a season where players and managers have hit the headlines mostly for the wrong reasons, that a gentleman of the game like Kompany should have had his say on the outcome of this most influential of games.
United can have few complaints. Ferguson’s team selection baffled many in the build-up to kick-off with Park Ji-Sung included while the in-form Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were both omitted.
United tried to pack the midfield with experience, as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick lined up in the centre, leaving Rooney isolated, frustrated and petulant in his performance up-front.
In fact the striker spent more time arguing with the referee rather than relishing his personal duel with Kompany, who had the beating of the English striker all evening.
City on the other hand, set out their stall with an attacking intent.
Carlos Tévez, Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Samir Nasri all started, with Yaya Touré also providing a goal threat.
It was clear which team was going for the win and who wanted to settle for a draw, and bravery rewarded Roberto Mancini in the end.
Mancini went with players he could trust, and it was telling that Mario Balotelli and Edin Džeko were not called upon during the 90 minutes.
But as the game wore on the Italian tactician withdrew his side into their shell, trying to protect their advantage.
It was a risky game to play, but United were toothless in their attack, and City were resolute at the back.
But there are still four fixtures that have a huge role to play in the outcome of the title.
And that will be what the away side clung to on Monday night as they slunk away hearing the full voice of their “noisy neighbours”.
This Sunday could prove to be just as important as the derby in terms of results, as City travel to an impressive but out-of-form Newcastle United side and United host a potential banana skin in the shape of Swansea.
It is now a test of which side can hold their nerve, but the impetus is certainly with the club who have not won a league title in 44 years.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news